How to tell if your car engine has seized

Updated February 21, 2017

If you have run your engine at high temperature without adequate oil, the engine could seize. You may not become aware this has happened until you try to start your car again, or it could seize and cease running while you are driving. A seized engine may be expensive to repair or may have to be replaced.

Put the emergency brake on and shift the car into neutral.

Open the bonnet of the car engine and locate the crankshaft pulley on your engine. The crankshaft pulley is on the front of your engine, between the engine and the radiator. It is the round disk that comes off your engine that the fan belt or serpentine belt passes over; usually the fan for the radiator is attached to it.

Select a socket that fits the nut on the bolt in the centre of the crankshaft pulley. Set your socket wrench to "tighten," so the wrench as it moves will be attempting to turn the nut in a clockwise direction. Connect the socket to the wrench.

Try to turn the crankshaft pulley in a clockwise direction, using the socket wrench on the centre bolt. If the pulley turns, your engine is not seized. If the pulley does not turn, your engine is seized.


You can place a small pipe over the end of your socket wrench to help you try to turn the pulley in the small space available in the engine compartment. The pipe will act like an extra long handle.


Even if your crankshaft turns, do not run the car without also inspecting all fluid levels. Low oil is the most common cause of a how a car engine seized.

Things You'll Need

  • Long-handled socket wrench
  • Socket set
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About the Author

Cassandra Tribe has worked in the construction field for over 17 years and has experience in a variety of mechanical, scientific, automotive and mathematical forms. She has been writing and editing for over 10 years. Her areas of interest include culture and society, automotive, computers, business, the Internet, science and structural engineering and implementation.